Day 1: Saturday

Following a first outbreak of looting on Friday, rumors started to go around my area on Saturday that the neighbours would loot all Chinese-owned businesses along the avenue where I live, in Urbanización Los Coquitos, which connects three other neighborhoods and several slums.

There’s a sizeable community of Chinese traders here in Ciudad Bolívar. There are about four Chinese shops, bakeries, butcher’s shops and drug stores along Los Coquitos’ main street, where I live, and other stores in the nearby areas, of course.

A woman I know took some cash, while others stole cash registers, air conditioners, computers, even the shelves themselves.

Early in the morning, talk on my street was that people would loot every shop. By around 10 a.m., it began to come true.

The whole avenue was a sea of people; men, women, teenagers and children. We could see pregnant women carrying boxes full of flour and pasta; children with bags of dog food; older people hauling bundles of products, sacks of rice and other things.

Amidst the chaos, I could see friends and neighbours, people in need who have lost weight for lack of food, while others were simply taking the opportunity to rob and destroy everything.

In the heat of the looting, people broke into a Chinese shop through a hole they’d torn in the wall, and they were making away with everything they could carry, and I do mean everything: a woman I know took some cash, while others stole cash registers, air conditioners, computers, even the shelves themselves.

At some point, people grabbed sledgehammers, hammers and their own strength to breach the warehouse, taking the food and destroying everything in their path. I saw a man, maybe in his 50s, trying to make off with a whole pallet of rice packages from the warehouse; people were on him in an instant and left him on the ground, with only two packs of rice, one of them broken.

It was a mindless mob deadset on one thing only: stealing all the food from every store around.

People wanted to loot the butcher’s shop which has served our neighborhood for years. Some malandro-looking guys tried to stop them, telling them to leave “our people” alone, to loot only the Chinese shops, “the people who had hurt or mistreated them for so long.”

But the mob was out of control, bent on destroying, breaking, taking everything they could haul or carry with them: motorcycles, cars and trucks packed with people kept coming, loading bags of products and leaving.

The news spread like wildfire all over the area and adjacent sectors. More people kept coming with bags, some were barefoot and wounded, but they didn’t care; some were laughing, seemingly enjoying the mayhem. The National Guard never showed up.

As far as I could see, there were two groups of people: those who really needed to buy food but had no cash, and hooligans (even women) who wanted to steal, destroy and burn whatever they could.

A girl of about 14 was carrying a bunch of products with both arms, she tripped and fell, and the people simply trampled her.

Being surrounded by a mob is quite a feeling: you can hear the noise, feel the pressure, the disarray, the fear coursing through your body. Perhaps I was the only one feeling this, since I was merely watching.

A girl of about 14 was carrying a bunch of products with both arms, she tripped and fell, and the people simply trampled her. She managed to stand up, picked up her loot and ran, vanishing from sight.

Noise and chaos. Anarchy is the only word I can use to describe what I saw that day, and this was happening all over the city. There were rumors that a curfew would be imposed, that the National Guard would come to put down the mayhem. Wherever I went, most if not all people were ready to fight the Guard, some with guns, others with sticks and stones.

Eventually, this mob of about 150 people (remember, pregnant women, children, men, teenagers, all of them poor) looted every shop and store around. But I also saw people from better off areas of the city (not rich, but above the median) participating in all of this, loading their vans with as many things as they could steal.

By the time it was over, people had ransacked every hardware store, drug store, clothing store and any other business in Ciudad Bolívar, regardless of whether they belonged to Chinese or criollo traders.

Day 2: Sunday

As dawn breaks on Sunday, nobody knows for certain what may or may not be happening. The traditional media is reporting nothing, information is flowing only through social media: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Whatsapp.

Rumors are going around that these are the kinds of businesses that would get looted next: shoe shops, clothing stores, appliances, toiletries, etc.

So I went out to have a look at the city after the previous day’s looting and mayhem. I got going early, phone in hand, eyes wide open. It’s like an episode of The Walking Dead: streets strewn with garbage, debris on the ground, on the sidewalks, on the roads, a sea of paper outside shops — receipts thrown to the wind, I guess.

Here are some pictures I took:

I go to Paseo Orinoco — the commercial district downtown. Rumors are going around that these are the kinds of businesses that will get looted next: shoe shops, clothing stores, appliances, toiletries, etc. I go into a shopping center where the store owners are gearing up outside, getting ready for the worst. Whatsapp chains come and go, full of chatter about going to this specific shopping center, but these people aren’t going to let it just happen, as one fashion shop owner tells us, as they frantically ask the police for help.

There are people of all ages around the city, some in small groups, waiting for “something”. Que pase algo. Some are on the sidewalk, some near the few shops still running. I notice many are wearing backpacks. You can feel the tension on each street you make your way up and down.

Gas stations — the few still selling gas — have spawned huge lines of cars trying to fill up, but of course they weren’t accepting Bs.100 bills. As you’d expect, nothing’s open, the streets are filled with people eager for the next chance to loot, burn, destroy and steal.

Avenida España, which crosses much of the city, hosts most of the bigger shops: Chinese-owned shops, hardware stores, phrarmacies, gas stations, autoperiquitos, fast food, supermarkets, etc. It’s a scene of total desolation. The owners of the shops that still haven’t been looted are busy emptying them out to try to safeguard their merchandise.

It’s Sunday and the city feels enveloped in chaos. Whatsapp chains churn ceaselessly with chatter about private homes being looted in the better off areas, or what’s left of them after 18 years of revolution. People who’ve worked their whole lives seeing everything they have snatched from them in an instant.

As I write this, my Whatsapp is going crazy: more and more messages coming in minute my minute with more and more garish stories.

As time goes by, tension rises. The hue of the protest has shifted since yesterday. The hungry have had their fill. Now the talk is more about going into homes. 

As I write this, my Whatsapp is going crazy: more and more messages coming in minute my minute with more and more garish stories. “They just tried to loot a residential buildings”. Facebook status updates where people try to coordinate to go loot certain areas together, others where people living in those areas coordinate to take out their weapons and shoot to kill.

Like in a movie, Bolívar State is convulsing and imposing a new reality. A reality that maybe we’d been ignoring, looking away from, hoping to be proven wrong. Today, with the city breaking apart, with anarchy, impunity and chaos triumphant, we salute the birth of the New Man.

 

41 COMMENTS

  1. “Almagro dice que la OEA está condicionada en Venezuela por el Vaticano”

    http://www.ultimasnoticias.com.ve/noticias/politica/almagro-oea-venezuela-esta-condicionada-vaticano/
    This marxist uncatholic Pope is the cause that the international community does not take action in Venezuela.

    Why is the CEV not putting a fight for Venezuela? The bishops should know that they do not owe obedience to the Pope in political matters; furthermore they are risking failing their Master who said:

    Matthew 5:13:
    “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

      • Please visit this catholic newspaper and you will see cardinals asking this Pope for clarifications on matters of faith and the Pope doesn’t respond. The Pope’s only mandate is to speak in matters of faith; if the Pope is not truthful to his mandate to be a teacher to those who ask him questions how could he be trusted in politics?

        http://thewandererpress.com/

        Particularly when this Pope went on a pilgrimage to pay homage to Fidel Castro, who did not have any government role at the time of the Pope’s visit:

        http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/20/world/pope-cuba-open/

        Luke 16:10:
        “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much”

        Mathew 7:16:
        “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?

        • Lighten up on the Bible thumping, you may straying into very dangerous terrain:

          Mark 2:15-17:

          While he was at table in his house,* many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.
          16
          * Some scribes who were Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors and said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
          17
          Jesus heard this and said to them [that], “Those who are well do not need a physician,* but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners.”

          • Bible thumping or Bible quoting? It doesn’t cost much to have manners.

            Did he go to “heal” Castro? He did not.

            How do we know? Because he did not also visit the political prisoners in jail.

            This Pope is not consistent with a Christ like attitude.

      • Oh, Francisco Toro, un pusilánime progre que se ofende por ver un video de un choque automovilístico y da lecciones de buenas costumbres, moral y ética.

        MAGA.

    • As of Friday CEV said this much:

      http://www.cev.org.ve/index.php/noticias/206-mensaje-de-la-presidencia-de-la-conferencia-episcopal-venezolana-ante-la-situacion-del-pais-en-las-ultimas-horas

      Dude, the Pope a communist? You really believe this? You should become an evangelical, every preacher there is their own pope given that sola scriptura and their intellect is all that is needed (oh yeah, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit).

      More seriously, if the Pope is upsetting your view of Catholicism, as it has to me, then he is probably doing some good stirring the pot of stayed attitudes.

    • You’re habit of bringing up the Pope in many articles that have nothing to do with it is tiresome. In any event, if Pope Benedict was in power, what would be different? Would the OEA countries be sending in troops to overthrow the regime or doing anything else that would actually produce tangible results?

      No, I think not. The regime are international pariahs already and could care less, as long as the men with guns still obey them they will stay in power. There is no external solution.

  2. Marxists always put forth the notion that they are “for the poor” to gain support. In reality, they make everyone poor except themselves. To paraphrase Lenin’s advice to all future generations of communists- Christians are gullible fools. Always tell them you are trying to help the poor and they will support you. You can burn the churches and kill them later. The Christian church is so irrationally obsessed with poverty that it has fallen for the lie.

    • Rick,

      You should brush up on history and realize the long game Christians play.

      There was Rome with Caeser, the Muslims with the Caliph, the French Revolution with Robespierre, the Soviets with Lenin and Stalin, the Nazis with Hitler…. and as of late radical secularist in the west.

      Yet the Pope sits in Rome.

    • Might I suggest that the 19th Century French priest Lammenais is responsible for the penetration of Marxist (atheist) ideals into Catholicism? Some say this pope is really a Peronist and a product of that era. It still boils down to the “save the poor” madness and the make everybody equal theory and then all the world’s problems will vanish. Sort of the John Lennon “Imagine” fantasy.

      • Rick,

        Catholicism is plagued by heresies from its inception but the Church’s main purpose is to “protect the deposit of faith”

        http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-great-heresies

        There seems to be a couple of misconception about Christianity here:

        1)-“make everybody equal”. If you read Revelation you will see that even the vision of heaven is not one of equality. If you delve further you will find the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).

        2)-‘all the world’s problems will vanish’, yes, but only after the second coming of Jesus Christ. Before that there will be much suffering. Check out (Matthew 24:3-31)

      • Helping the plight of those in desperate poverty, those half starved wretches or long suffering communities around the world, is a far cry from “make everyone equal”.

  3. Civilians turning against civilians/private enterprise, but never against government/military. We are now going full speed to the bottom.

    I am sure that Maduro and Co are very happy, they have preached for over 17 years that the the empire and the apatridas are the ones causing the problem and people turned against them.

    Today, civilians and private enterprise are even weaker due to the looting and fighting between themselves. Meanwhile the government/military are chilling, seeing the destruction of their enemies. They are fully armed and ready to give the last blow to private enterprise and to open the door to the many merchants, entrepreneurs and decent people ready to get the hell out of dodge.

    In short, the situation is out of control, but for private enterprise and civilians. For the government? not so much.

  4. It is sad, but not surprising that these “people” are expressing their frustrations at the wrong people and not the Maduro dysfunctional dictatorship who is the real source of so many issues.
    It is pathetic that the opposition is not taking advantage of this momentum of raw energy.
    Say what you want about Chavez, but he used, abused and exploited the Caracazo to his advantage and won.

  5. How many of the looted businesses will open. Will they invest to replace cashiers, shelves, computers, doors, etc. I doubt many will. So the area will be worst off once things calm down.

  6. Thanks for the report Victor. People- including me- have long wondered when the breaking point comes, and how that will work to the advantage of the opposition. This may be it, or it may be a passing convulsion, but in any event, that notion is a delusion.

    Events like these make the possibility of reform more remote. This is a dangerous moment, and you conveyed that feeling very effectively. When things fall apart, when people are desperate, they revert to their worst prejudices and what has been drilled into them for years by opportunists. The innocent become targets. None of us can claim to be any better than this, under similar circumstances, but still I wonder what special hell it must be to be of Asian origin and living in rural Venezuela.

  7. I remember a conversation with an exile Venny in Rhode Island, where he was a mechanic. He spoke of the “evil” portuguese who set up bakeries in Venezuela and years later returned to Portugal with their profits. I can just imagine what he would have said about any “chinos”…

  8. Step by step, the regime is forcing us to live by its standars. What we are watching is how gradually they are preparing us for their CLAP paradise. Their plan is coming to fruition. Why the fuck would Maduro care about the looting, if it presents him a golden oportunity to do what Chavez always dreamed of and the corrupt generals crave for: taking complete monopoly of everything? The transition is not so easy, they know that. That’s what they do it gradually and that’s why they are not being really violent. For them, this chaos, is just the last step in their plan. I will not even speak of the MUD because they are completely clueless, they are still hoping to win elections someday. Maybe they will, but only if the government allows them and mainly their function will be to sell CLAP bags, under the supervision of all powerful military men. If they had some wit they would understand this and react before it is too late.

  9. One Caracazo always leads to another? An army takeover is the only way out of this. The Chavista idiots are determined to go down with the ship and take you with them because they refuse to accept the fact that their castrista economic policies don’t work. An old French army colonel (Vietnam era) once told me that every time a country falls to communism, the population declines dramatically. Guess it’s true. Pretty clever of Chavez to purge the army command and turn it into his private militia. These looted businesses cannot be restocked (why-to be looted again?) and you can bet the Chinese are going to be mad as hell in Peking. When there is nothing left to loot, what then? Will there be Somali-style warlord gangsters taking over cities while Maduro and his sychophants grin and babble in Caracas and eat caviar? And the 2 idiots who caused this mess are dead-one rotting in a glass coffin and the other a pile of ashes, which is what Venezuela is turning into fast. How bad can this get is what is so scary, since the bottom has not been reached. The countries that could do something do nothing but keep buying the oil or begging for it free while defending the “wise and brave revolutionaries” who espouse the same failed ideology that they do. It is always easier to look the other way and do nothing. Just ask a Cambodian or a Rwandan.

  10. The looting can only be read as a protest against the regime sparked by a specific government measure , both private and govt banks were attacked and destroyed , roads were blocked , Local govt offices in El Vigia and other places were also assaulted ….., if there had been no measure invalidating the 100 bs bill there would have been no sacking of Ciudad Bolivar ……or other places!!

    The protests and lootings concentrated on those private establishments which were most vulnerable , had the least police protection , so could be more easily attacked but the political meaning of these mass protests cannot be ignored . The MUD is making political use of these events even as we speak , The people doing the looting were not cheering Maduro as they acted . We can be sure he is loathed by every single one of them !!

    To pretend otherwise is to misread these events big time …!!

    • The looting started a few months ago, way before the 100 bill fiasco. What is the MUD doing? I have not seen it.

      What I am sure of and what I’ve seen in the last few months is that the government wanted chaos. They been stocking the fire nonstop and nothing big had happened, until now. They pulled the 100 bill almost as a test to see how much shit people were willing to take. They got their answer and as a bonus they got more people dependent of them because and X amount of private enterprises were destroyed.

      Let me put it in other words. This government hates its citizens, they could not care less about Venezuelans, plain and simple. We are their enemy and they want to destroy us, therefore this weekend was a success for them.

      Listen, I hope you are right. I do not care at all if I am misreading the situation, but I have not seem a credible I luv you moment from the government towards Venezuelan people in a loooong time.

    • I don’t know how the opposition spins this kind of chaos into political capital. It is a repudiation of their efforts. It is self-help in its most destructive form. It is an excuse for the regime to use still more force.

  11. The political meaning of this is that we are watching the transition to a totalitarian state. Full control of the economy by the State. Food distribution controled by the military and no democratic elections.If we don’t somehow turn this chaos in our favor, that’s what will happen. They know that well enough. Also, they know MUD will not react. Once a coward, always a coward. We didn’t change our leaders and organization in time, so sadly I am afraid we are screwed. It is obvious that if we give them more time, they will use it to further increase their control of the situation. This is not about popular support, if you control the media, the weapons, the distribution of food and medicines, then you can control people. Stop thinking otherwise. Popular support in this situation only means shit if you can start a rebelion, and MUD has proven many times they don’t want to do that. They lack the courage.

  12. These protests are clearly damaging to the govt , the govt wants very much to appear in control , as unchallengeable in the control of public order , these protests clearly show they are incapable of keeping public order of the most basic kind , they are sign of its weakness , of having lost the authority it once possesed to claim the respect and or fear of the general population , to say that they help the govt move along a plan to gain control over the daily lives of venezuelans is down right silly because such wish gains nothing by having people disobey its authority and rebel against it …….., moreover by making people see it as corrupt and inept and down right hamrful to their basic interests……., It is not by taking stupid measures that make people resist and oppose its decisions in the most overt way…….what makes it easier to gain greater control over peoples lives…..but by taking measures that show them as benefactors and protectors of the people whose loyalty they have worked so hard to bring to their side….!!

  13. There are many audio messages sent last night via Whatsapp of people of Ciudad Bolivar in homes bracing flor “malandros” (thugs) that were going to assault them, and asking for help. Many claimed that this was the only way of telling about what was happening in Ciudad Bolivar..

  14. I grew up in “los Coquitos”, my sister still lives there, IMO hunger was the first detonant of the looting and later on many others took adavantage “to fish in the scrambled river”. I dont see any plan, everything happened spontaneously since prices are too high and people dont have enough to eat, no cash for buying and also there was an acummulated fury against chinese traders since they raised prices almost daily and sell cash with a 10/15% through your debit card. I dont support any of this, I understand bussiness is bussiness, I only try to find for a logical explanation. Of course for the regime this was caused for the right-wing extremists from La Causa R but never for the damn corrupted policies the have been applying for the last eighteen years.

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